We will need EU workers after Brexit to tackle ‘biting’ skills shortages, says CEO of REC

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THE Government should encourage EU workers to come to the UK after Brexit to help tackle “biting” skills shortages in areas such as health and social care, according to the chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC).

Neil Carberry, who heads the professional body for the UK recruitment industry, also called on the Government to take steps to avoid a no deal Brexit, because he feared it could create barriers to trade that would damage the UK’s economy.

Neil Carberry of the REC

Neil Carberry of the REC

Mr Carberry, who previously held senior roles at the Confederation of British Industry and the Low Pay Commission, said EU nationals were needed to help fill labour shortages.

He said multinational teams are needed at highly skilled levels, where teams are serving clients in many countries from the UK.

He added: “In areas like hospitality, health and social care, and logistics we are already seeing shortages biting.

“In logistics last year our members could only fill 70 per cent of the roles on offer. Half of those roles were filled by EU nationals so there’s a real challenge in a number of areas.

He added: “What our members are telling us is, “How can we make sure there is the certainty for people who want to come here and work and contribute?’

He said the Government White Paper, which was published before Christmas was a start, as it offered a 12 month visa for lower skilled workers.

He added: “The real challenge right now is that Brexit is scheduled for March 29. We’re already seeing fewer people coming into the country ahead of that.

“Business has been very clear. What we must avoid is a no deal situation which gives employees and companies no certainty.”

Mr Carberry continued: “Securing that transition period and the ability for people to work and contribute is vitally important.”

He said recruiters would need to react quickly to a fast-changing picture in the event of no deal, but this would be a stretch.

He said: “Recruitment mirrors the growth of the economy. What worries recruiters about a no deal Brexit is clearly any new barriers to trade that leads to a slowdown in key industries.”

He added: The labour market is changing fast. I’m an optimist about the future of jobs. Some jobs go away. New jobs are created.

“What’s really important is that we have an approach that helps people transition into new roles effectively, with retraining and advice.”

Mr Carberry said lots of companies were investing in their bases in cities across the North to grow their business.

Speaking during a trip to meet REC members in Leeds, he added: “For too long, the skills system in England in particular has been very top down and breaking away from that is critical to success.”

He believes the apprenticeship levy should be flexible to fund apprenticeships and also other high value qualifications.

Although the UK needs a national standard and funding structure, “you can have a discussion about how you devolve the design of provision”, Mr Carberry said.

The Prime Minister has offered MPs a guarantee that workers’ rights and environmental safeguards would not be eroded as a result of Brexit. She has also scrapped the £65 fee for EU nationals wishing to remain in the UK.